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Appropriate involvement of PTO

16 years 3 months ago #141407 by raptordad
I have only heard of this "supporting the budget" thing previously. It's in the PTO and Politics section of the message boards. You may have a kindred spirit there.
16 years 4 months ago #141179 by lisa49
The issue seems to boil down to boundaries. Is it proper for the PTO to use funds from its annual budget to promote "yes votes" for the school district's budget? There must be transparency with this so all the parents who are PTO members fully understand that the money is being used to print flyers, bumper stickers, yard signs and to run an ad in the paper to promote yes votes for the school budget. If some parents are not so sure about using PTO funds for this and would prefer funds be used for programs, etc. for the school, then it isn't reflecting the opinions of the entire body. It seems as if there could be a conflict of interest with the Board of Ed. members privately funding ads, as well. I think the checks and balances sound out of whack here. You need to look at the PTO bylaws and the description of the PTO purview to see whether these actions fit. Also, you may want to consult with an expert in education law to see about this since it is illegal for a school district to use public funds for printing promotional materials (as opposed to informative). Good luck with you work to make sure that there is enough oversight.
16 years 4 months ago #141176 by TPSparent
Does your PTO have By Laws in place? Do you review your By Laws every other year? And if so, are you on the committee to recommend changes to the By Laws? That would be my first step.

If our school district is up for a levy and the parent groups want to donate to promote the passage of that levy so be it. Passage of levies impact our schools, which impact our students. For example, our school district asks for parent groups to endorse levies and then posts those in the local paper showing that support. If the school district doesn't get the endorsements than they know that there are serious issues if their own parents aren't supporting it. Our Superintendent has been trying to go out to all of our schools to talk with the parent groups and educate them on the finances of the district. I appreciate that. He views parents as part of the team not as a tool.

Building Program: We are currently in a building program with the Ohio School Facilities Commission. Our district is required to obtain community/parent input. I, myself have been on a design committee and will continue to do so. There are certain building guidelines in place that cannot be changed, but parents do get to give input and I appreciate the opportunity. Between architects, engineers, contractors, the school district, and the OSFC, parents would not be able to make a 3 million dollar mistake on their own.

I have no problem with a former PTO board member running for the School Board. Most PTO officers take a vested interest in what is happening in the school district because decisions made at the Board affect our schools which affect our students and their families. We recently had this happen in our district and the new School Board member is working on initiatives that will make a positive impact for our students. She got her start in a PTO. That is something we can be proud active parent on the Board of Ed.

I wish you good luck with your endeavors, it sounds like you have a clique going on. Work with the other PTO groups in the area to see what their feelings/suggestions are, have a roundtable discussion; and if you do start questioning be sure to do so in a diplomatic way; when emotions start spilling out, people turn on defense mechanisms and nothing gets accomplished.
16 years 4 months ago #141155 by PresidentJim
I agree with everyone else in that these things are not typically a PTO endeavor.

However, what you now do with this is tricky. You see it all the time on these boards how a single person, often the Principal, can totally undermine everything that a PTO can do. Worse would be the Superintendant of Schools or the cities' School Committee, which seem to be the two entities that are expecting/wanting the various PTO's in your town to be involved in these ways.

To upset these individuals would be a very bad thing possibly. You may need to just stick with the status quo, whether your group feels it is correct or not. It's difficult.

Lets look at each concern individually...

1. Using PTO funds to print up bumper stickers, fliers, signs, and to purchase advertisements in the local papers that promote the school budget.

- This one bothers me the most. Not sure why the school budget needs to be advertised, unless there was a vote concerning it going on. The Superintendant/School Committee may have felt that the requested budget increase was very important to all of the schools in the town. And as such may have asked the Principal/PTO President to help support promoting the increase in an attempt to get it to pass. If this was a one time thing I could see possibly supporting it, as long as my group agreed, that it affected the students at the school (which a budget increase likely would) and that all of the other groups in town were supporting it as well.

2. Standing up en masse at school board meetings to say that the math curriculum set in place in the district shouldn't be changed, and denying parents who wanted a team of teachers and math specialists to investigate the curriculum a venue for their concerns.

- When you say "en masse" I wonder what that means? Reading between the lines it sounds as though the Principal or Superintendant knew that the topic was on the School Committee agenda and for a reason unknown was against the change. The key person likely contacted the PTO President, directly or through the Principal, to try to get the parental voice at the meeting. There defintely may be more to this going on behind the scenes that possibly only the Executive Board would be aware of.

3. Supervising building plans with the superintendent for construction projects worth millions of dollars.

- Actually, in many ways I like that the Superintendant wanted to include the PTO Executives. Why not try to have a voice of the community involved in building plans. And if a Superintendant is trying to find parental input the place to go is to the most active parents, the PTOers. And truth be told, the ones that are usually the MOST active are the ones that take on responsibilities such as Executive Board positions.

I'm sure that the Superintendant wasn't asking the PTO Presidents whether or not the foundation should be 10 feet deep or 15 feet deep. More along the lines of general layout, access, classroom size, etc.

It's possible that this is a city requirement, to have parental inclusion, and by going this route the Superintendant covers the req.

So, overall I would venture that there is a lot of background information that a non-Executive member would not be privy to. There may be a reason why the Superintendant was against the change to the math curriculum, and she likely expressed that to the PTO Executives. The may be a requisite, per the City guidelines, that indicates that PTOs be included in school budget or building plans.

And the biggest drawback is that even if you have all of the background information and still feel that it is against the grain of what a PTO should be doing, speaking out may cause more problems than just leaving it as is.

My best recommendation would be to talk with your (or maybe a different) PTO President and see if they can give you any insight into the specifics. Maybe it will make more sense. Another option would be to find out who your Ward's School Committee member is and get in contact with them. They may be able to shed some light.

Good luck, PresidentJim
16 years 4 months ago #141142 by FoxMom
Do you have anything written into your by-laws that might help you?
I do not think there is a National overseer of PTO's.
We work with our school district to make things happen-- but each school in our school district runs their own PTO with their own set of by-laws-- Each school has made changes to their by-laws that work for them-- such as how many years a Board member can be in their position, what happens if no one runs-- the criteria for being able to run for a board position.-- check into some of the rules your school has in place.
16 years 4 months ago #141141 by Dahlia
I can't thank you enough for this input. It is very helpful as we explore what the boundaries are between PTOs, superintendent, school board, and teachers/administrators. Frankly, it is extremely helpful to know that those of us who thought something "smelled funny" are not nutty! We are taking your advice and information carefully and will indeed keep you posted.

I think you have cause for concern when it comes to PTO members running for School Board positions. We have two former PTO members on the school board, and several others with wives who are deeply involved in the PTO. In the case of the former, they schmooze and make promises to current PTO heads. Joining the PTO is the way to get what you want - even if what you want isn't best for the community. For those on the board who have spouses involved in the PTO, if they vote the "wrong" way, the spouses will hear about it on the playground and the board members will hear about it at home.

As I read through your posts, I'm wondering if it's possible to have the charter for the local PTO revoked and have it reorganized. I also realize there is zero oversight. Besides the local newspaper - is there anywhere we can go to have this assessed and corrected? Does the national PTO have authority here, or is there some entity in our state (New York) that can get us back on track with a healthy Parent Teacher Organization?

Incidentally, so many of the ideas I read about on this site do not exist in our district - such as parent congresses. It would be a wonderful thing to have PTOs who truly want to enrich the students' lives and build community!
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